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Awards are great teachers

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One of the most inspiring business experiences is to go an awards ceremony on the big night – for small business owners who are eager to take out the prize it’s like a night at the Academy Awards – and I’m not kidding! Business awards aren’t physical keepsakes of a pat on the back but could help an operation to lift its key performance indicators.

Apart from marvelling at the achievements and ingenuity of people who beat the odds to build a thriving business, you also feel encouraged to aim higher yourself.

Advisers often urge businesses to enter for awards to encourage objective self-assessment.

The exercise can be illuminating, with failure leading to improved attitudes and systems.

Better bottom lines, as a consequence, are predicted. Well, that's the theory.

Interestingly, a University of Wollongong PhD student once tested the theory and has concluded that there is a strong positive correlation between performance in the awards and improved results.

Alexander Hausner, who conducted the research, charted the annual improvements in key performance indicators (KPIs) against a certain award’s evaluation score.

What was detected was an increase in the award's evaluation score and that was strongly linked to the improvement in the firm's KPIs.

While Hausner's tests were restricted to manufacturing operations, the correlation was so high that the award organiser believed that the results would be similar for other businesses as well.

All the companies in Hausner's study participated in Awards for Business Excellence over a five-year period. Not all were winners and some competed in the awards more than once.

The results are very believable given that the aim of this particular award was to raise the standard of businesses and the systems they employ.

On another level, other awards impose standards which all firms hoping to win must achieve. The winners have reached or even have passed those benchmarks while the losers get to re-evaluate their weak spots.

I have been a part of an award process where no one was worthy of recognition and no award was made.

On another occasion, I had the difficult task of explaining to a loser why his business did not win and why his rival took out the Small Business of the Year prize.

It was made harder by the fact that his business did not even make the final group assessed for the award.

That aside, the businessman in question, while flabbergasted that he had been overlooked, was determined to find out why he had not won.

"It's not because I am a sore loser", he said, "I just want to know what I am doing wrong so I can win the damn thing next year".

Published on: Friday, November 20, 2009

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